What does this exerpt from Robert Fulghum's It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It mean? "Which is why I often say that I don’t worry about the meaning of life--I can’t handle that big stuff....

What does this exerpt from Robert Fulghum's It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It mean?

"Which is why I often say that I don’t worry about the meaning of life--I can’t handle that big stuff. What concerns me is the meaning in life--day by day, hour by hour, while I’m doing whatever it is that I do. What counts is not what I do, but how I think about myself while I’m doing it." 

Asked on by rei1213

1 Answer | Add Yours

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The excerpt you mention is from It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It by Robert Fulghum; it is contained in a chapter in which the author discusses how he tries to determine and describe who he is and what he does.

In the paragraph preceding your quote, Fulghum details what he has spent his life doing, because he has realized that 

“What I do” is literally “how I spend my time.”

At the time he wrote this chapter of his book, Fulghum figures he has spent 

35,000 hours eating, 30,000 hours in traffic getting from one place to another, 2,508 hours brushing [his] teeth, 870,000 hours just coping with odds and ends, filling out forms, mending, repairing, paying bills, getting dressed and undressed, reading papers, attending committee meetings, being sick, and all that kind of stuff. And 217,000 hours at work.

His conclusion is that there is not much more time than that left over, so the "good stuff" either has to be squished in between all those things or--and this is his point--the "good stuff" has to happen while he is doing the mundane things.

Then he talks about not worrying about the meaning of life because it is just too big a thought for him to consider. Instead, what he intends to spend his time thinking about is 

the meaning in life--day by day, hour by hour, while I’m doing whatever it is that I do. What counts is not what I do, but how I think about myself while I’m doing it.

This passage is a reminder that the time he spends doing ordinary things is not "throwaway" time, and he has determined to find or create meaning in everything he does, even the mundane.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,916 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question